Beijing (Gasgoo)- Baidu Inc. unveiled its latest technology developments at Baidu World 2020, the internet giant’s annual tech event. Without doubt, the improvement in autonomous driving technology was a major highlight.
During the event, the company displayed its Fully Automated Driving, which can make vehicles self-drive without a safety driver, a milestone in realizing large-scale application of the emerging technology. Together with Xiaofeng Bao, a CCTV anchor, Zhenyu Li, Baidu Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Intelligent Driving Group (IDG), demonstrated the newest technology in Beijing’s Shougang Park, where the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 will be held.
During the demonstration, the driverless Baidu taxi experienced a variety of scenes such as going straight, turning left, turning right, taking a curve. Other traditional vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists also passed by from time to time.
Apollo displays Fully Automated Driving, a breakthrough based on seven years of innovation, during Baidu World 2020. (photo soruce: Baidu)
Zhenyu Li illustrated the three core components of Apollo’s Fully Automated Driving technology. First of all, all vehicles are pre-installed and mass-produced autonomous vehicles. Unlike those approaches which modify vehicles with autonomous technology, Baidu’s way will offer better safety performance and guarantee the consistency.
The current autonomous vehicle is the fourth generation since the company launched its first one in 2013. In 2019, Baidu and FAW Group jointly developed Hongqi EV robotaxi, the first pre-installed and mass-produced robotaxi in China. By far, the taxi has been deployed in such cities as Beijing, Changsha, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Cangzhou while driverless test has started in certain areas. According to Robin Li, co-founder, chairman and CEO of the company, its autonomous vehicles have carried more than 100,000 passengers across the country.
The second component of Baidu’s automated driving technology is that it is an experienced AI driver, which means the technology have the capacity to control the vehicle without any human driver.
As we all know that, road test is of great importance to autonomous technology. According to the company, Apollo has completed over six million kilometers of road testing with no accidents at all, which makes the system experienced. The company’s technology is capable of handling various challenges and solving different potential issues on the road.
But sometimes you do have emergencies that the system cannot deal with, such as temporary road control. To cope with emergency situations better, Baidu also launched 5G Remote Driving Service, with which vehicles can be remotely controlled by human operators through the cloud.
All remote human operators have completed over 1,000 hours of virtual driving training without any accidents to ensure the safety of passengers and pedestrians. Besides, one remote human operator can be able to manage multiple vehicles simultaneously, largely increasing efficiency.
A remote human operator demonstrates the 5G Remote Driving Service, which allows instantaneous human intervention in case of extraordinary emergencies. (photo source: Baidu)
Passengers only need to press the button on the in-car screen, and the demand will be sent to a remote control cabinet with the help of smart transportation systems, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies, and the high bandwidth and response speed of 5G networks. When receiving the demand, remote operators will take over the vehicle and help to deal with the challenge. The company said all such demands will be responded in a timely manner.
The fact that 5G network has not been fully deployed renders it necessary to provide an alternative solution. When the 5G network is unstable or unavailable, Baidu's remote center can send the vehicle a defined route which the vehicle can follow to drive autonomously.
Apollo also released its fifth-generation autonomous driving kit, with which the first pre-installed and mass-produced vehicles will be coming soon to satisfy the operational requirements of fully automated vehicles. Zhengyu Li also pointed out that, with each new generation of Apollo vehicles, the cost will be halved while the performance will increase by tenfold. In the future, Baidu will work with many automakers to produce pre-installed and mass-produced autonomous vehicles.
Robin Li predicted at the event that autonomous driving technology will realize full commercialization in 2025. At that time, the traffic congestion in many Chinese cities will be significantly eased and traffic accidents will be greatly reduced, thanks to advancements in autonomous technology. As a result, big cities will no longer need to put any limit on vehicle purchase and running, which is not convenient for daily life.
Smart transportation solution is another segment which Baidu put great weight on. Its solution, named ACE Transportation Engine has been put into operation in nearly 20 cities in China. V2X-based smart transportation infrastructure is likely to improve transportation efficiency by 15% to 30%, according to Robin Li.
What’s more, Apollo also revealed valet parking technology, which is jointly developed with WM Motor. In 2021, the automaker will release a new model incorporating the aforesaid function, the first in China to be equipped with L4 autonomous valet parking technology.
demonstrstion of valet parking (photo source: Baidu)
The system can identify vacant parking lots and park without human’s intervention just by simple learning or with the help of high resolution maps. With fixed parking lots, the parking system only needs to learn the route once, and afterwards drivers can get off before the vehicle completes parking task by itself. With the summon function, drivers can summon vehicles to come pick them up via a mobile phone.
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